Nearly 80 percent of Lake Ontario has frozen over, as plummeting temperatures have caused the great lakes to become encased in a near-record amount of ice.
On Tuesday night, more than 4,700 square miles of ice formed over the Great Lakes, leaving just 20 percent of Lake Ontario open. When all five of the Great Lakes are taken into account, 85.4 percent of their surface iced over as of Wednesday night, with Lake Erie almost completely solid. Currently, 92 percent of Lake Huron is covered, as well as 89 percent of Lake Superior. Lake Michigan is the least frozen, with just 57 percent of its surface iced over.
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) February 20, 2015
The record for ice coverage on Lake Ontario stands at 86 percent. At this time last year, just 32 percent of the lake’s surface was frozen over. Lake Ontario is particularly deep, retaining heat and normally seeing just 10 percent of its surface encumbered by ice.
The “Siberian Express” currently assailing the East coast after striking the Midwest and Southeast has been responsible for over 100 record low temperature readings noted on Thursday throughout the region, forecasters asserted. The near-record ice coverage has also prompted meteorologists to warn that a cooler spring, and possibly even summer, may be on the way for areas where the climate is deeply effected by the Great Lakes.
George Leshkevitch, a scientist with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, noted that the ice usually retreats from the lakes in April or May.
“Last year, we had ice throughout May, and even lingering into June. If that happens again, we’re likely to have a cool spring—which is good for the fruit growers along Lake Michigan, saves them from possible killing frost.”
6:47am CST.Another look at this morning’s record breaking cold Great Lakes to Florida. Warmer in Alberta, CAN than FL pic.twitter.com/gU0x8iGUnc
— Ken Dewey (@kdewey1unl) February 20, 2015
According to Leshkevitch, whether or not the Great Lakes see any more ice form is largely dependent on how long the temperatures remain low. The National Weather Service noted that temperatures were expected to remain about 20 degrees below normal through next Tuesday.
Earlier this week, images of Niagara Falls went viral, as they depicted the iconic waterfall frozen over from the intense cold. Similar images spread online in previous years, though in reality, only the sides of the falls had frozen.
— NewsWatchCanada.ca™ (@newswatchcanada) February 20, 2015
Despite the icy conditions over the Great Lakes and near-record coverage on Lake Ontario, forecasters assert that April, May, and June may be warmer than usual in the Midwest.
[Image: NOAA via the Daily Mail]